A story is making the rounds about a woman who was drinking 28 Red Bull Energy Drinks a day (according to several of her quotes, as a way to try to keep up with her three kids). She developed a health condition called “idiopathic intracranial hypertension.” I have no interest in villainizing this woman, and I have no idea about her circumstances. What does concern me is that in every story I read about it, the health condition was blamed on her body size. In fact, almost every article said that it was “caused” by her size.
That is odd for a number of reasons, first of all because people of all sizes get this issue, second because it presented after a period of drinking 28 cans of Red Bull a day, but predominantly because “idiopathic” literally means “of unknown cause”. Still, everyone seems to be all too happy to blame her weight, and there seems to be little interest in what might happen if she stops drinking almost 2 gallons of Red Bull every day, but doesn’t get her stomach amputated in a dangerous (and highly profitable) surgery.
This is an extreme example of our society’s general tendency to turn weight into a “middleman” where none is necessary. For example, let’s say a person changes their behaviors in an effort to support their health (knowing that health is not an obligation, a barometer of worthiness, entirely within our control, or guaranteed under any circumstance) and they lose some weight (which of course they are almost certain to gain back) and become healthier. In our weight-obsessed society everyone from doctors to weight-loss companies to random people on the internet credit the health improvements to the weight loss, ignoring the behavior changes.
What research actually shows, is that behaviors that tend to have health benefits have those benefits independent of size or weight loss. But in our effort to glorify making our bodies fit a fairly random height/weight ratio, we tend to overlook the very likely possibility that both the weight loss and the health changes are both side effects of the behavior changes (and that the health benefits may have been possible without whatever restriction was necessary to produce the – almost certainly temporary – weight loss.)
We see this on the other end of the spectrum when a fat patient and a thin patient present with the same health problem, and the thin patient is given an intervention proven to help the health problem, while the fat patient is given a diet. This seems extra ridiculous given that, since thin people get all the same health problems as fat people, being thin can neither be a sure preventative nor a sure cure.
We can, and we should, have a complete conversation about health without making weight the middleman between our bodies and our health.
Like the blog? More Cool Stuff!
Book and Dance Class Sale! I’m on a journey to complete an IRONMAN triathlon, and I’m having a sale on all my books, DVDs, and digital downloads to help pay for it. You get books and dance classes, I get spandex clothes and bike parts. Everybody wins! If you want, you can check it out here!
Like my work? Want to help me keep doing it? Become a Member! For ten bucks a month you can support size diversity activism, help keep the blog ad free, and get deals from size positive businesses as a thank you. Click here for details
Book Me! I’d love to speak to your organization. You can get more information on topics, previous engagements and reviews here or just e-mail me at ragen at danceswithfat dot org!
I’m training for an IRONMAN! You can follow my journey at www.IronFat.com
A movie about my time as a dancer is in active development, you can follow the progress on Facebook!